Jerusalem – The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that Hamas has used the six-month, cease-fire period, which began June 19, to operate at least 400 smuggling tunnels from Egypt into Gaza, with Israeli constrained from taking any action, due to the constraints of the cease-fire.

Palestinian sources told the Middle East Newsline that the Hamas regime controls and operates at least 90 percent of the estimated 450 tunnels that link the Gaza Strip with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

The Hamas Interior Ministry has assumed control over the tunnels, establishing a Tunnel Administration, which is responsible for policing the tunnels as well as ensuring that fees are paid for every shipment.

In most cases, Hamas has allowed Palestinian clans in the Rafah area to continue smuggling activity. The sources said Hamas provides the families with permitted items for smuggling as well as goods sought by the regime, particularly weapons, explosives, medicine and cattle.

Estimates on the number of tunnels have ranged from 400 to 800, which cost between $60,000 and $150,000 each, depending on their length.

Tunnel operators said about 25,000 people have been employed in the tunnel smuggling industry.

“The government films tunnel activity and posts monitors, who work eight-hour shifts,” a Palestinian source told the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. “Should smugglers cheat, they have to pay a penalty or get shot in the legs. Alternatively, Hamas might inform Egypt about the tunnel, which then would likely be destroyed.”

In a recent report, ICG said Palestinians who own land near the Egyptian border have become wealthy. The independent think tank said those Palestinian landowners have been taking over the distribution network of smuggled goods in cooperation with Hamas.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com. His Web site is at www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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